Transplanting Retinal Cells Using Bucky Paper for Support
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California
Sunday, August 01 2004
Bucky paper supports the cells before, during,and after surgery.
A novel treatment for retinal degenerative disorders involving transplantation of cells into the eye is currently under development at NASA Ames Research Center and Stanford University School of Medicine. The technique uses bucky paper as a support material for retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, iris pigment epithelial (IPE) cells, and/or stem cells. This technology is envisioned as a treatment for age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in persons over age 65 in Western nations. Additionally, patients with other retinal degenerative disorders, such as retinitis pigmentosa, may be treated by this strategy. Bucky paper is a mesh of carbon nanotubes (CNTs), as shown in Figure 1, that can be made from any of the commercial sources of CNTs. Bucky paper is biocompatible and capable of supporting the growth of biological cells. Because bucky paper is highly porous, nutrients, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and waste can readily diffuse through it. The thickness, density, and porosity of bucky paper can be tailored in manufacturing. For transplantation of cells into the retina, bucky paper serves simultaneously as a substrate for cell growth and as a barrier for new blood vessel formation, which can be a problem in the exudative type of macular degeneration. Bucky paper is easily handled during surgical implantation into the eye. Through appropriate choice of manufacturing processes,bucky paper can be made relatively rigid yet able to conform to the retina when the bucky paper is implanted. Bucky paper offers a distinct a vantage over other materials that have been investigated for retinal cell transplantation — lens capsule and Descemet's membrane — which are difficult to handle during surgery because they are flimsy and do not stay flat. In preparation for implantation, the selected cells are first cultured onto a piece of bucky paper.
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